This year not only do I need to register my car, but my driver’s license is expiring. Due to some federal law, the identification requirements to get a license are now much higher. They want a proof of citizenship which can be a birth certificate or passport, a proof of social security number, which can be a W-2 or Social Security Card, and proof of address which can be two different utility or bank statements. This was causing a lot of problems and long lines when it was introduced in July, but I was hoping things had calmed down now. This is a far cry from the days when one of my friends took his older brother’s birth certificate to the driver’s license place to get a driver’s license in his brother’s name with his own picture: A perfect fake ID saying he was over 21, which only failed once, when he opened his wallet and the clerk saw two licenses.
I looked up where I could get my license renewed and the closest place seemed to be South Dekalb Mall. Not just near the mall, but actually inside the mall. I don’t know if I had ever been there before, but I was lucky to park pretty close to where I needed to be. There were maybe a dozen people in line (which turned out to be just a prescreening line), and although the website said the average wait was 20 minutes, it was more like 35 minutes. Other than the waiting, it went pretty smoothly. They gave me a paper license which looks like it was made on an inkjet printer and includes my picture and I should get a new one in a couple of weeks, hopefully before I need ID for the election. So this is place #1 in my day.
Next I wanted to get my emissions test done, so I headed for the place I went last year which charges $15 instead of the usual $20. Before I got there, I saw another place I had gone before that was now charging $14.99, and there didn’t seem to be a line, so I stopped in (place #2). The test went fine, but the young guy doing the test couldn’t move my car since it had a manual transmission. It seemed like he was still learning the ropes. Then he said that my gas cap didn’t pass the pressure test. In the past I have suspected that this is a scam so they can sell you a new gas cap, but he didn’t offer to sell me one, just said that once I got it fixed they would retest me for free. My car is less than 5 years old and it seemed unlikely that the gas cap would just go bad. The guy pointed out that some plastic part was moving and shouldn’t click.
There aren’t a lot of Mazda mechanics around, but there is a Subaru place nearby that also works on Mazdas that I have thought about trying. I went there (#3) and they asked if my Check Engine light had been coming on. Nope. They said it seemed unlikely that the gas cap was bad, but they could test it for me to help me from having to buy a new one. They also pointed out that if the gas cap wasn’t supposed to click, it wouldn’t be printed with the words “Turn cap until clicks.” They tested it and said it was fine and maybe the guy just used the wrong adapter for this size cap. While I was talking to them I remembered that my trunk latch wasn’t working anymore and hoped for an easy fix. I pulled the lever from inside, which did nothing, and then unlocked the trunk using the key. He pointed to a yellow tab on the side of the trunk lock that you could flip down. And now it worked! He said it was like a child safety lock, but I guess maybe it is a valet feature. I don’t know how it ever got flipped because I had no idea about that thing.
Back at the emissions place (where of course now there was a line, #4), I asked if they could check the old cap again and make sure they use the correct adapter. They did it a couple of times and said it was still failing. I was pretty mad and left. I went to the $15 place I was going to go originally (no line, #5) and asked if they could just do a test on my gas cap for me. And it failed! So much for that.
Next I go to AutoZone (#6) to get a new gas cap and while I was there, I got some windshield wiper fluid since the car was completely out. They sold me a gas cap for $16. Kind of expensive, so I decided to leave it in the package and return it if I could get a Mazda one for a reasonable amount (I figured $25 would be the most I would pay; the factory gas cap is on a plastic tether so you don’t lose it). So back to the Mazda mechanic (#7) where they looked up the price and it was $40! Even the guy who looked it up shook his head. I said nevermind and stopped by my house (I won’t count this as #8 since I live there) on the way to swap out the cap. While I was there I put in the wiper fluid and since I had the hood open, I checked the oil and was low. The oil cap says 5W-20 on it and the owner’s manual recommended 5W-20 oil as well, which seems like an oddball variety. Back at the emission place (#8), the new gas cap passes with flying colors and they didn’t have to repeat the other tests that I had passed already. So I’m good to go, but need some oil. I stopped at the closest gas station (Citgo, #9) and they didn’t have 5W-20 oil. Or the next place (Chevron, #10). Or the place after that (Shell, #11). Somehow, I lucked up and the Texaco station had it (place #12).
This took all day.